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The DMC DeLorean (commonly referred to simply as a "DeLorean", as it was the only model ever produced by the company) is a sports car originally manufactured by John DeLorean's DeLorean Motor Company, or DMC, for the American market from model years 1981 through 1983. The car, designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro, stood out for its gull-wing doors and brushed stainless-steel outer body panels, as well as an innovative fiberglass body structure with a steel backbone chassis. Initially, it became widely known for its disappointing lack of power and performance, which didn't match the expectations created by its looks and price tag, but later – after 1985 – the DeLorean became iconic for its appearances as the time machine in the Back to the Future media franchise.

DMC DeLorean
Delorean DMC-12 side.jpg
1983 DeLorean
Overview
ManufacturerDeLorean Motor Company (DMC)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Production8,583 (disputed)[1]
Model years1981–1983
AssemblyDeLorean Motor Cars, Ltd. (DMCL) Dunmurry, Belfast, Northern Ireland
DesignerGiorgetto Giugiaro at Italdesign
Body and chassis
ClassSports car
Body style2-door coupé
LayoutRear-engine, rear-wheel-drive
DoorsGullwing doors
Powertrain
Engine2.85 L (2,849 cc) PRV ZMJ-159 V6
Power output130 hp (132 PS; 97 kW) and 207 N⋅m (153 lb⋅ft) of torque
Transmission5-speed manual
3-speed automatic
Dimensions
Wheelbase2,413 mm (95.0 in)[2]
Length4,216 mm (166.0 in)
Width1,857 mm (73.1 in)
Height1,140 mm (44.9 in) doors closed
1,961 mm (77.2 in) doors open
Curb weight1,230 kg (2,712 lb)

Throughout production, which began on January 21, 1981, the car was generally unchanged although minor features and parts of the car were changed, such as the hood style and wheels. Over the course of about 24 months spanning three model years, about 9,000 DeLoreans were made before production halted in early 1983.[3]

In 2007, about 6,500 DeLorean cars were thought to still exist.[4]

In 1995, Stephen Wynne, a British entrepreneur from Liverpool, created a separate company based in Texas using the "DeLorean Motor Company" name. Wynne acquired the trademark on the stylized "DMC" logo shortly thereafter, along with the remaining parts inventory of the original DeLorean Motor Company. The company builds new cars at its suburban Humble, Texas location from new old stock (NOS) parts, original equipment manufacturer (OEM), and reproduction parts on a "made to order" basis using existing vehicle identification number (VIN) plates.[5]

HistoryEdit

 
A DeLorean with the gull-wing doors closed
 
A DeLorean from the front with the gull-wing doors open

In October 1976, the first prototype DeLorean was completed by American automotive chief engineer William T. Collins, formerly chief engineer at Pontiac. Originally, the car was intended to have a centrally-mounted Wankel rotary engine. The engine selection was reconsidered when Comotor production ended, and the favored engine became Ford's "Cologne V6". Eventually the French/Swedish PRV (Peugeot-Renault-Volvo) fuel-injected V6 was selected. Also the engine location moved from the mid-engined location in the prototype to a rear-engined installation in the production car. The chassis was initially planned to be produced from a new and untested manufacturing technology known as elastic reservoir moulding (ERM), which would lighten the car while presumably lowering its production costs. This new technology, for which DeLorean had purchased patent rights, was eventually found to be unsuitable.[6]

These and other changes to the original concept led to considerable schedule pressures. The entire car was deemed to require almost complete re-engineering, which was turned over to engineer Colin Chapman, founder of Lotus Cars. Chapman replaced most of the unproven material and manufacturing techniques with those then employed by Lotus, like the steel backbone chassis.[7]

The first prototype appeared in October 1976 and was known as the DSV-1, or DeLorean Safety Vehicle.[8] As development continued, the model was referred to as the DSV-12[9] and later the DMC-12 since DMC was targeting a $12,000 MSRP at release.[10][11] After several delays and cost overruns, production finally began in 1981 as DMC officially dropped the name DMC-12 on their now $25,000 car in favor of the model name "DeLorean." The DeLorean sports car, as it was described in advertisements, began production on January 21, 1981.[12][13]

In an interview with James Espey of the new incarnation of the DeLorean Motor Company of Texas, a drawing surfaced showing that the car originally had the potential to be named "Z Tavio". John DeLorean's middle name and his son's first name were both Zachary, while Tavio was his father's name and his son's middle name. Due to only sporadic documentation, there is little more that is currently known about the Z Tavio name and why it was ultimately rejected in favor of the DeLorean.[14] Numerous sources later continued to erroneously refer to the production car as the DMC-12.

DMC required US$175 million to develop and build the motor company.[15] Convincing Hollywood celebrities such as Johnny Carson and Sammy Davis, Jr. to invest in the firm,[16][17] DMC eventually built the DeLorean in a factory in Dunmurry, in Northern Ireland, a neighborhood about 7 miles (11 km) from the city of Belfast.[18]

The company had originally intended to build the factory in Puerto Rico,[19][20] but changed its plans when the Industrial Development Board for Northern Ireland (IDB) offered £100 million towards it,[21] despite an assessment by consultants hired by the IDB that the business had only a 1-in-10 chance of success.[20]

Construction on the factory began in October 1978, and although production of the DeLorean was scheduled to start in 1979, engineering problems and budget overruns delayed production until early 1981. By the time production actually began in 1981, the unemployment rate was high in Northern Ireland, and local residents lined up to apply for jobs at the factory. The workers were largely inexperienced, but were paid premium wages and supplied with the best equipment available. Most quality issues were solved by 1982, and the cars were sold from dealers with a one-year, 12,000-mile (19,000 km) warranty[22] and an available five-year, 50,000-mile (80,000 km) service contract.

 
DeLorean interior

The DeLorean Motor Company went bankrupt in late 1982 following John DeLorean's arrest in October of that year on drug-trafficking charges. He was later found not guilty, but it was too late for the DeLorean to remain in production. Approximately 100 partially assembled DeLoreans on the production line were completed by Consolidated International (now known as Big Lots). The remaining parts from the factory stock, the parts from the US Warranty Parts Center, as well as parts from the original suppliers that had not yet been delivered to the factory were all shipped to Columbus, Ohio in 1983–1984. A company called KAPAC sold these parts to retail and wholesale customers by mail order. In 1997, DeLorean Motor Company of Texas acquired this inventory.[23] The DeLorean assembly plant was eventually occupied by the French firm Montupet, which began to manufacture cast aluminium cylinder heads automobile engines at the Dunmurry facility in 1989.[24]

ProductionEdit

One perennial question has been the number of DeLoreans made. It appears that the factory made a full production run of 82s from VIN 10001 to about VIN 12170 before the factory was shut down. At that time there were unfinished cars in the assembly line that would have been in the 12,XXX series. These unfinished cars were finished later creating the 20,XXX series. 12,XXX VIN numbers have been found under the headliners of the 20,XXX series cars substantiating this.

As the factory produced the 82 models from December 81 through May 82 and sent them to the dock, there started to be a backlog of cars at the dock which continued until everything stopped when the factory was shut down in May. On February 19, 1982 the company was placed into receivership and the Receivership kept the factory operating until May 31, 1982. During this time only one shift was working - producing 35 to 40 cars per week, much lower than the 80 cars per day being produced the previous November. When Consolidated International acquired the unsold and partially assembled cars in November 1982, they brought back workers to complete the cars remaining on the assembly line. It was decided to make the remaining completed 82 model year cars into 83 models. The remaining cars VINs were re-VINed into 83 cars by taking the original VIN number and adding 5000 to it and changing the "CD" in the middle of the VIN to "DD" thus making an 83 model. For example the 15,XXX series cars were originally 10,XXX series cars. Logically most of the early 10,XXX series cars made it to the United States before the backlog started. There are many 82 cars in the 10,XXX series and much fewer in the 15,XXX series VIN and most of the 15,XXX VIN cars are in the upper VIN range. This makes sense because the early 82`s were being shipped before the backlog started. As time went on and shipments of 82s to the United States stopped, the 82s began piling up at the dock and factory. None of the later 82s made it to the United States (the latest known 82 is VIN 11,788). All of the rest of the vehicles were later converted to 83 models. From evidence gathered, it appears that there was a full production run in the 10,XXX series through the 11,XXX series and into the early 12,XXX series. In the 12,XXX series it appears they made those cars up to VIN 12160. These 12,XXX series cars were re-VINed to 17,XXX series cars. Evidence indicates that the last 82 made in regular production would have been VIN 12170, which would have been given VIN 17170. The cars left on the assembly line were completed later that year were given 20,XXX series VIN number.

The company had a few right-hand-drive (RHD) development cars built for planned sales in the UK and other countries. The company contracted with Wooler-Hodec to help engineer the changes for European specifications. They took about 32 early production cars (per Nick Sutton) around the summer of 1981 and produced about 30 right hand drive cars. Some of those cars had 81 VINs. Many were scrapped during the engineering process due to build quality issues - these cars were, for the most part, considered prototypes or mules that happened to start life as an early production Delorean car. The receiver assigned VIN numbers to the remainder so that these cars could be sold. They started with a VIN number after the last 12,XXX series car made. The last regular production car for which there is a record is VIN 12169 (later changed to 17169). Since the first RHD car had a VIN of 12171 this leads one to believe that there was a VIN 12170 that was later changed to 17170. It remains unclear from which point in the production line the RHD cars came from as it appears theses cars were not all made at the same time. Since VINs 586 through 606 are unaccounted for, it`s believed that the 12,XXX came from that range and there is evidence of that based upon the low frame number of these cars. Evidence indicates that these were early production cars. The VIN numbers go sequentially from 12171 to 12181 then jumps to 12199.

For 1981s one can assume there were 6700 made (VIN 500-7199). As stated earlier there is a VIN gap between VINs 585 and 607 that has not been explained but it's assumed that they were produced. The evidence indicates that the 10,XXX and 15,XXX are the same series, and so the VIN range would have gone from 10001 to 10999 (there is no known VIN 10000 or 15000) or 999 cars. The evidence also shows that the 11,XXX and 16,XXX range are the same, so there were 1000 cars - VINs 11000 to 11999 (there was a VIN 16000). It is believed that there were 171 cars made in the 12,XXX range before production ended. These were re-VINned to 17,XXX series cars (VIN 17000 to 17170). The 12XXX appear to be 5XX - 6XX series cars so their count would be included in the 81 cars. In the 20,XXX Series there were 105 cars made - VINS 20001 to VIN 20105.[25] Total cars made were 6700 + 999 + 1000 + 171 + 105 = 8,975 cars assuming that the RHD cars were pulled out of the early VINs.

ConstructionEdit

The DeLorean features a number of unusual construction details, including gull-wing doors, unpainted stainless-steel body panels, and a rear-mounted engine.

BodyEdit

 
1981 DeLorean that was displayed at the National Motor Museum, Birdwood, South Australia, in October 2011

The body design of the DeLorean was a product of Giorgetto Giugiaro of Ital Design and is panelled in brushed SS304 stainless steel. Except for three cars plated in 24-karat gold, all DeLoreans left the factory uncovered by paint or clearcoat.[26] Painted DeLoreans do exist, although these were all painted after the cars were purchased from the factory. Several hundred[27][28] DeLoreans were produced without stainless panels, for training workers, and are referred to as "black cars" or "mules", in reference to their black fiberglass panels instead of stainless, although these were never marketed. Small scratches in the stainless-steel body panels can be removed with a non-metallic scouring pad (since metal pads can leave iron particles embedded in the stainless steel, which can give the appearance of the stainless "rusting"), or even sandpaper.[29] The stainless-steel panels are fixed to a fiberglass underbody. The underbody is affixed to a steel double-Y frame chassis, inspired by the Lotus Esprit platform.[7]

The unpainted stainless body creates challenges during restoration of the cars. In traditional automotive body repair, the panel is repaired to be as original ("straight") as possible, and imperfections are sculpted back to form with polyester body filler like Bondo or lead (body solder). This poses no problem (aside from originality) with most cars, as the filler will be hidden by the car's paint (for example, most new cars have filler hiding the seam where the roof meets the quarter panel). With an unpainted stainless body, the stainless steel must be reworked to exactly the original shape, contour, and grain, which is a tremendously difficult job on regular steel (a dented or bent panel is stretched, and a shrinking hammer or other techniques must be used to unstretch the metal) and even more difficult with stainless due to its tendency to work-harden. Furthermore, it is exceedingly difficult to paint stainless steel due to difficulties with paint adhesion. DeLorean envisioned that damaged panels would simply be replaced rather than repaired.

 
The gull-wing doors on the DeLorean were a distinctive feature.

Another distinctive feature of the DeLorean is its gull-wing doors. The common problem of supporting the weight of gull-wing doors was solved by other manufacturers with lightweight doors in the Mercedes-Benz 300SL and a hydraulic pump in the Bricklin SV-1, although these designs had structural or convenience disadvantages. The DeLorean features heavy doors supported by cryogenically preset torsion bars and gas-charged struts.[30] These torsion bars were developed by Grumman Aerospace (and built by Unbrako in the UK, a division of SPS Technologies of Jenkintown, PA) to withstand the stresses of supporting the doors.[31] A popular misconception of the DeLorean's gull-wing doors is that they require far more side clearance to open relative to ordinary side-hinge doors, such as when parked in a parking lot. In fact, the opposite is true: the DeLorean requires far less clearance than side-hinge doors, and this can be physically demonstrated. This misconception of side clearance may stem from a misunderstood location of the hinge point of the doors by persons unfamiliar with DeLoreans. These doors, when opening, only require 11 inches (28 cm) clearance outside the line of the car, making opening and closing the doors in crowded spaces relatively easy. Much like the doors fitted to the Lamborghini Countach, the DeLorean doors featured small cutout windows, because full-sized windows would not be fully retractable within the short door panels. Additionally, the doors featured red and amber "safety" lights around the perimeter. These lights illuminated when the door was open and could be seen from the front, rear or side of the vehicle at night or in low-light situations.[32][33]

Engine and drivetrainEdit

The engine is a Peugeot-Renault-Volvo (PRV) 2.85 L (2,849 cc) V6, rated at 130 hp (132 PS; 97 kW) @ 5500 rpm and 153 lb⋅ft (207 N⋅m) @ 2750 rpm of torque,[34][35] that was designed and built under special contract with the DeLorean Motor Company. These PRVs were a development of the 2.7-litre V6 in the Renault 30 and were built in the PRV Factory in Douvrin, Northern France. The 5-speed manual transmission, also designed by PRV, was built at the Renault facility near Caen in Normandy. The engines and gearboxes were shipped weekly by sea from the PRV factories to the DMC factory.

SuspensionEdit

The suspension is a four-wheel independent suspension, coil springs, and telescopic shock absorbers. The front suspension uses double wishbones, while the rear is a multi-link setup.

When the DeLorean first arrived in the US, the car had a higher than expected wheel gap in the front suspension. The nose-high appearance is the result of poor quality coil springs. Despite having significantly less weight in the front, the front and rear springs had the same spring rate and also used lower quality steel which resulted in the nose-high look.[36] Some people have erroneously cited a last minute change in US bumper height requirements led DMC to raise the vehicle just prior to delivery, however this is not true. Design drawings clearly show that the design met NHTSA minimum bumper and headlight heights of the time.[37][38] Many owners have subsequently replaced or modified the front springs to return the front height to the original design specification.[39]

Steering is rack and pinion, with an overall steering ratio of 14.9:1, giving 2.65 turns lock-to-lock and a 35-foot (11 m) turning circle. DeLoreans are fitted with cast alloy wheels, measuring 14 inches (360 mm) in diameter by 6 inches (150 mm) wide on the front and 15 inches (380 mm) in diameter by 8 inches (200 mm) wide on the rear. These were fitted with Goodyear NCT steel-belted radial tires. The DeLorean is a rear-engine vehicle with a 35%–65% front–rear weight distribution.[40]

The DeLorean features power-assisted disc brakes on all wheels, with 10-inch (250 mm) rotors front and 10.5-inch (270 mm) rear.[41]

PerformanceEdit

DMC's comparison literature noted that the DeLorean could achieve 0–60 miles per hour (0–97 km/h) in 8.8 seconds, when equipped with a manual transmission. When equipped with an automatic transmission, the DeLorean would accelerate from 0 to 60 miles per hour (0 to 97 km/h) in 10.5 seconds as tested by Road & Track magazine. The car's top speed is 110 miles per hour (177 km/h).[42] Road and Track called the car: ".. not quick for a sports/GT car in this price category ..".

Pricing and optionsEdit

Upon release in 1981, a DeLorean had a suggested retail price of US$25,000 ($650 more when equipped with an automatic transmission); this is equivalent to approximately US$68,896 in 2018.[43]. MSRP would increase in 1982 to $29,825[44] and again in 1983 to $34,000.[45] At the outset, there were extensive waiting lists of people willing to pay up to $10,000 above the list price; however, after the collapse of the DeLorean Motor Company, unsold cars could be purchased for less than the retail price.[46]

The DeLorean was only available with two factory options; a no-cost manual transmission or automatic transmission and the choice of a grey or black interior (grey interior became available mid 1981 model year).[47] The standard feature list included stainless-steel body panels; gull-wing doors with cryogenically treated torsion bars; leather seats; air conditioning; an AM/FM cassette stereo system; power windows, locks and mirrors; a tilt and telescopic steering wheel; tinted glass; body side moldings; intermittent/constant windshield wipers; and an electric rear-window defogger. Several dealer options were available, including a car cover; sheepskin seat covers; floor mats; car care cleaning kit; black textured accent stripes; grey scotch-cal accent stripes; a luggage rack and a ski-rack adapter.[48][49]

1982 window sticker & 1983 DeLorean clearance advertisement

Production changesEdit

Although there were no typical yearly updates to the DeLorean, several changes were made to the DeLorean during production.[2] Instead of making changes at the end of the model year, DMC implemented changes mid-production. This resulted in no clear distinction between the 1981, 1982, and 1983 model years, but with subtle changes taking place almost continuously throughout the life cycle of the DeLorean.

Hood stylesEdit

The original hood of the DeLorean had grooves running down both sides. It included a tank flap to simplify fuel filling. The flap was built so that the trunk could be added to the total cargo area of the DeLorean. These cars typically had a locking cap to prevent fuel theft by siphoning. In August 1981, the hood flap was removed from the hood of the cars (although the hood creases remained). This style was retained well into 1982.[50] Based on production numbers for all three years, this hood style is probably the most common. After the supply of locking caps was exhausted, the company switched to a non-locking version (resulting in at least 500 cars with no flap, but with locking caps). The final styling for the hood included the addition of a DeLorean name badge and the removal of the grooves, resulting in a completely flat hood. According to senior personnel who worked at the Dunmurry factory, initial elimination of flapped hoods has a simple if unglamorous explanation; Chuck Benington, managing director, did not like the design.[51]

Side-by-side comparison of an early 1981 hood (left) vs. a later model 1983 hood (right)

Other changesEdit

 
Early pull strap
 
Later-style one-piece bolster
 
Mid-1981 silver wheel

John DeLorean was 6 ft 4 in (1.93 m) tall, and he designed the car to comfortably fit someone of his stature.[52] For shorter people, the addition of a pull strap made closing the doors much easier from the inside. Pull straps were manufactured as an add-on for earlier vehicles in November 1981. These attach to the existing door handle. Late-model 1981 cars, and all cars from 1982 and 1983, have doors with integrated pull straps.[53]

The side bolstering in the DeLorean was originally separate from the main interior pieces. In cars with this construction, is a tendency to place pressure on this piece when entering and exiting the vehicle, which eventually causes the bolstering to separate from the trim panel. To solve this problem, cars built in and after late 1981 have one solid trim piece with the bolster permanently attached.[54]

As an addition to later cars, a foot rest, or "dead" pedal, (in the form of an unusable pedal) was added to the cars to help prevent fatigue while driving. This is one of the few changes that is directly tied to a model year. These were built into only a few of the late-1981 vehicles and were added to all cars starting with 1982 production.[53]

Although the styling of the DeLorean's wheels remained unchanged, the wheels of early-model 1981 vehicles were painted grey. These wheels sported matching grey centre caps with an embossed DMC logo. Early into the 1981 production run, these were changed to a polished silver look, with a contrasting black center cap. The embossed logo on the center caps was painted silver to add contrast.[55]

In 1981, the DeLorean came with an AM/FM stereo radio with cassette made by Craig. Since the Craig radio did not have a built-in clock, one was installed in front of the gear shift on the console. DeLorean switched to an ASI stereo in the middle of the 1982 production run. Since the ASI radio featured an on-board clock, the clock on the console was removed at the same time.[56]

The first 2,200 cars produced used a windshield-embedded antenna. This type of antenna proved to be unsuitable with poor radio reception. Oftentimes the radio would continually "seek", attempting to find a signal. A standard whip antenna, which was later changed to a manually retractable antenna, was added to the outside of the front right fender. While improving radio reception, this resulted in a hole in the stainless steel, and an unsightly antenna. As a result, the antenna was again moved. The final antenna was an automatic retractable version installed under the rear induction grill behind the rear driver's-side window.[57]

The small sun visors on the DeLorean have vinyl on one side and headliner fabric on the other side. Originally these were installed such that the headliner side would be on the bottom when not in use. Later on in 1981, they were reversed so that the vinyl side would be on the bottom.[58]

The original 80 amp Ducellier alternator supplied with the early-production DeLoreans could not provide enough current to supply the car when all lights and electrical options were on; as a result, the battery would gradually discharge, leaving the driver stranded on the road. Additional battery drainage problems were caused by faulty or improperly adjusted door jamb switches. This switch activated the "safety" lights located around the door perimeter when it was open. When the door was closed, the door seals prevented the light from being seen. Due to the faulty switches the lights remained on, further draining the battery. This happened to DeLorean owner Johnny Carson shortly after he was presented with the vehicle. Beginning with cars built in late 1981, DeLoreans were fitted from the factory with a 90 amp Motorola alternator, which solved this problem.

Notable and unique DeLoreansEdit

Prototypes and pilot carsEdit

Only one of two DeLorean prototypes still exists.[59] Prototype 1 sold at the bankruptcy auction in 1984 for $37,000.[60] The car remained in a private collection until 2005 when it was sold to the owner of DeLorean Motor Company of Florida (DMCFL) where it received a complete restoration.[61] Proto 1 is now on display at DMCFL. Proto 2 was sent to Lotus Cars for development and evaluation in 1978. It was reported to have been destroyed in the 1990s.[62]

An estimated 28 pilot cars were built by DMC. The pilot cars are best identified by the subtly different interiors and sliding side windows. These cars, used for evaluation and regulatory testing of the DeLorean, were previously thought to have been destroyed. Subsequently, several of the pilot cars were found to have survived.[63][64] Pilot car 25 which was featured on the front cover of Autocar in 1981 announcing the DeLorean to the world was found in 2003 in a barn in Northern Ireland.[65]

Visioneering carEdit

With the 1980 NADA meeting approaching, DMC planned to show a final “production” version of the DeLorean, however there were no production cars ready at the time or even any production stainless steel panels.

Earlier, in the summer of 1979, the revised Giugiaro styling mock-up was shipped to Visioneering, a Detroit based company, to create data needed to make the stamping dies for the stainless panels. This project would expand to create dies used to create a “production” car for the NADA show.

Using a prototype chassis supplied by Lotus in late 1979, Visioneering completed the assembly of this car at a cost of $750,000. The car was presented at the 1980 NADA show and was later used for engineering development and technical training as well as press photos. The Visioneering car would eventually be sold at the bankruptcy auction in late 1984 for $21,000.[60] Today, the car is in a private collection.[66]

Legend turbo carsEdit

It was determined that the DeLorean needed additional power when automotive magazine road tests showed 0–60 mph (0–97 km/h) times for the DeLorean between 9.5 and 10.5 seconds, while its rivals were in the 7.5–8.5 second range. There had been interest in turbocharging the DeLorean early on, but the DMC engineering staff was busy with other projects, so DeLorean decided to go outside to develop a turbocharged version of the DeLorean.[67]

Having had previous success with turbocharging Fiat Spiders, DeLorean entered into a contract with Legend Industries, based in Hauppauge, New York. DMC wanted to increase power without sacrificing fuel efficiency. DMC wanted a wide power band and did not want a surge of power similar to the Porsche 930 Turbo. Legend used twin IHI RHB52 turbos along with twin intercoolers. The results were an engine capable of accelerating smoothly in fifth gear from 1,500 rpm to full turbo boost at 2,500 rpm, reaching 150 mph (240 km/h) at 6,500 rpm.[67]

 
Legend Twin Turbo setup from VIN 530

In addition, Legend Industries developed a single turbocharged setup that was never finished. The company converted a total of four DeLoreans and two Renault Alpines, which were the first development cars.[68] VIN 530 was written in numerous press articles as the fastest production car of its era.

In a test run of VIN 530 at Bridgehampton Raceway in 1981, the twin-turbo DeLorean was quicker than a Ferrari 308 and a Porsche 928. It has been a misconception for many years that VIN 502 was at Bridgehampton and used in testing; however, evidence from pictures, along with information from a Legend employee published by PJ Grady, indicates that 530 was used with the aspirated VIN 558.[69] By the time of Bridgehampton, Legend had perfected modular boosting, which the earlier prototypes did not have installed apart from one of the Alpine mules and VIN 530.[70]

VIN 530 tested 0–60 mph in 5.8 seconds and the 14 mile (402 m) in 14.7 seconds. John DeLorean was so impressed with the engine, he committed to ordering 5,000 engines from Legend Industries. DMC planned to offer a turbocharged engine as a $7,500 option in 1984 (presumably to compete with the newly redesigned 1984 Corvette). Before any of the 5,000 cars could be put into production, DMC had declared bankruptcy, which drove Legend Industries, as well as other suppliers, into bankruptcy.[71]

VIN Configuration Last known location Comments
502 Twin New Zealand Original prototype
528 Single New York
530 Twin United Kingdom Sister twin-turbo
558 Single Unknown

Gold-platedEdit

 
A gold-plated DeLorean in Reno, Nevada

For Christmas 1980, a DeLorean/American Express promotion planned to sell 100 24K-gold-plated DeLoreans for US$85,000 each to its gold-card members, but only two were sold.[72] One of these was purchased by Roger Mize, president of Snyder National Bank in Snyder, Texas. VIN #4301 sat in the bank lobby for over 20 years before being loaned to the Petersen Automotive Museum of Los Angeles. It has a black interior and an automatic transmission.[73]

The second gold-plated American Express DeLorean was purchased by Sherwood Marshall, an entrepreneur and former Royal Canadian Naval Officer. Marshall donated his DeLorean to the William F. Harrah Foundation/National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada. This car, VIN #4300, is the only one of the three existing gold-plated cars to be equipped with a manual transmission. It has a saddle-brown interior and, like its golden siblings, is a low-mileage vehicle with only 1,442 miles (2,321 km) on the odometer.[74]

A third gold-plated car exists with 636 miles (1,024 km) on the odometer; it carries the VIN plate for the last DeLorean, #20105, although final assembly was actually completed in Columbus, Ohio in 1983.[75] This car was assembled with spare parts that were required by American Express in case one of the other two that were built were damaged and all necessary gold-plated parts were on hand, with the exception of one door. Thus the car was assembled after another door was gold-plated, though the added door does not precisely match the rest of the car in color and grain. The car was first acquired by the winner of a Big Lots store raffle. Consolidated International, which owned the department store, had purchased 1374 DeLoreans during the DeLorean Motor Company's financial troubles, acquiring the remaining stock after the company went into receivership. Now held by a private owner in La Vale, Maryland, this third and last gold-plated DeLorean was for sale online at a price of US$250,000, but remains unsold.[75] After being offered for sale for over a decade, it is unclear whether it has sold.[76] This car and the example in Reno have saddle-brown leather interiors, a color scheme which was intended to become an option on later-production cars, however, these two cars were the only DeLoreans to ever be equipped with these factory parts.[77]

A gold-plated DeLorean was reproduced privately by an enthusiast.[78]

Right-hand-drive modelsEdit

DeLoreans were primarily intended for the American market. All production models were therefore left-hand-drive. Evidence survives from as early as April 1981, however, that the DeLorean Motor Company was aware of the need to produce a right-hand-drive (RHD) version to supply to world markets, specifically the United Kingdom.[79]

The company faced the choice of building right-hand-drive models from scratch or performing a post-production conversion exercise. Given the cost of new body molds, tooling, and a host of specific parts that a factory-built right-hand-drive configuration would require, the company opted to investigate the idea of a post-production conversion using a company based in Hampshire called Wooler-Hodec Ltd.[80]

 
RHD DeLorean

Only 16 right-hand-drive factory-authorized DeLoreans were ever produced.[81] These cars can be divided into two distinct groups:

  1. The first batch, known by enthusiasts as the "Wooler-Hodec cars", were converted by the UK company of that name. Evidence still exists in the form of a DMC factory memo, which orders 20 cars to be converted to right-hand drive.[82] Due to the factory's closure, this order was never completed, and today a total of 13 cars survive, carrying the VINs 510, 12171–12181 and 12199. VIN 510 is understood to be the first of this batch of cars converted and was later sold at the factory auction in 1984. The other 12 cars were auctioned off by the receivers in early 1983. As a result, several of these cars were registered at the same time and have the Northern Irish registration (license) number "SIJ xxxx". All of this first batch of cars had a black interior and all had manual transmission, except VIN 12175. This car is the only factory-authorized right-hand-drive black-interior automatic car and is owned by Andrew Withers, former editor of the UK DeLorean Owners Club.
  2. The second batch were registered and used by the factory in Northern Ireland, with registration numbers (license plates), AXI 1697, AXI 1698, AXI 1699 and are referred to by enthusiasts as the "AXI cars". These three cars (VINs 5565, 5592 and 5638) differ from the first Wooler-Hodec cars in several ways. These 3 cars all had roof-mounted radio antennas, indicator repeater lights, no side marker lights, white forward-facing door lights, fog-light switch, and textured body rubstrips on the stainless panels. No catalytic converters or lambda equipment were fitted, as British legislation did not require them. VIN 5565 with the registration number AXI 1697 was a fully UK homologated example, which would have been shown at the British motor show at Birmingham, UK in October 1982. It includes a unique rearward-facing twin exhaust, no catalytic converters and the UK-specification engine as used by Volvo, but retaining the usual Renault ancillaries. The transmission final drive was also set at 3.88:1 versus the standard 3.44:1. Attention was paid to other unique details such as correctly offset wing mirrors.[citation needed]

A common misconception surrounding the factory-authorized right-hand-drive DeLoreans is that they were all fitted with different, so-called "Euro-spec", tail lights[83] as part of the right-hand-drive conversion program. This is not the case. Due to the nature of these cars as prototypes, they were not officially type-approved for use in the UK. Owners who bought these cars at auction in the early 1980s encountered difficulty in registering them as new vehicles in the UK. At this point a former DeLorean Motor Cars executive offered to modify and register the cars so that they could be used in the UK. These modifications included:

  • Different seat-belt units fitted.[84]
  • The fitting of Rubbolite tail light clusters with a built-in foglight function.[83] The foglight is a legal requirement in the UK.
  • The fitting of a foglight switch to one of the center-console dummy switches.[84]
  • A custom-made tail light surround and number (license) plate bezel.[85]
  • Swapping the front turn signal lenses for ones of a different, more rounded style.[86]
  • Swapping the rear side marker lenses for amber ones.[87]

There were a number of official alterations made to the right-hand-drive cars' lights. The extent of these modifications varies between the first batch of "Wooler-Hodec" cars and the later "AXI" cars:

All of the 13 Wooler-Hodec cars were modified to the OEM front turn-signal lens fixing method in order to make them fit flush with the front fascia.[88] The cars' headlights were also changed for right-hand-drive spec lights that incorporate a UK sidelight feature. The rest of the lights appear to have been left untouched by Wooler-Hodec during the conversion process.

By contrast, the 3 "AXI" cars had further modifications to the amber front door lights, which were exchanged for clear lenses of the same style.[89] Perhaps the most significant alteration on the "AXI" cars is the deletion of the front and rear side markers. These are replaced by a single small round European-style indicator side repeater, situated on the front wing (fender). The body rubstrips are also of a different configuration in order to cover the areas that would otherwise have had federal side marker lenses fitted.[90]

Back to the FutureEdit

 
A DeLorean "time machine" from the Back to the Future trilogy exhibited at Universal Studios Florida

Several special-edition DeLorean cars have been produced over the years, and the car is most notably featured as the time machine in the Back to the Future film trilogy. Six DeLorean chassis were used during the production, along with one manufactured out of fiberglass for scenes where a full-size DeLorean was needed to "fly" on-screen; only three of the cars still exist, with one that was destroyed at the end of Back to the Future Part III, two additional were abandoned, and the fiberglass replica was scrapped. Universal Studios owns two of the remaining cars, occasionally putting them on display or using them for other productions, and the last resides in a private collection after having been extensively restored.[91] The official Back to the Future DeLorean can be viewed at the Petersen Automotive Museum.[92]

A number of production DeLoreans have been modified by the aftermarket into Back to the Future time machine replicas, whose bodies and interiors are modified to mirror the appearance and functions of the film cars.[93]

DMC TexasEdit

 
All-electric model DMCev in Milan (2012)

DMC Texas (based in Humble, Texas) announced on July 30, 2007 that the car would be returning into very limited production (about 20 cars a year) in 2008.[94] They were subsequently sued by John DeLorean's widow for illegally licensing the family name. DMC Texas settled this lawsuit in September 2015 by paying his widow an undisclosed sum and in turn received rights to use the name, images, and trademark in the future.[95]

The cars were announced to have a new stainless-steel frame; with optional extras such as GPS, an enhanced "Stage 2" engine, and possibly a new modern interior. Given that the cars were made with 80% old parts,[96] the term "return to production" is something of a misnomer; the cars are constructed on DeLorean underbodies built by the original company in the 1980s and retaining their VINs. The cars' titles show the year of the underbody's manufacture. Therefore, they are not new DeLoreans, but complete rebuilds of the car from the underbody with enhancements. In 2009, the price of a refurbished DeLorean from DMC Texas started at US$57,500, and the project was featured in an episode of Modern Marvels.[97]

On October 18, 2011, it was announced that an all-electric model would be available for sale by 2013. It was said to have a 200 hp (149 kW) motor, accelerate from 0 to 60 mph (0 to 97 km/h) in 8 seconds, and sell for US$90,000.[98][99][100] Initial test drives revealed that the prototype had a range of 70 miles (110 km), approaching the 100 miles (160 km) that was announced.[101] However, 2014 saw criticism from fans who tried to buy the electric DeLorean only to learn that it was still unavailable.[102]

Due to the passage of the Low Volume Vehicle Manufacturing Act, DMC Texas announced that they would be producing replica DeLoreans with an expected release date in 2017. DMC anticipates to build approximately 50 vehicles per year over the next 6 years with an estimated retail price of US$100,000.[103][104] In October 2016, DMC announced that they are expecting to build 12 units in the first production year with as many as 50 in the second year of production.[105] In February 2018, it was reported that production should start in January 2019.[106] Due to the NHTSA having not yet issued standards for the new process, this has resulted in delays.[107][108]

Publicly-exhibited DeLoreansEdit

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Further readingEdit

  • DeLorean, John Z.; Schwarz, Ted (1985). DeLorean. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. ISBN 0-310-37940-7.
  • Lamm, John (2003). DeLorean Stainless Steel Illusion (2nd ed.). Fort Jones, CA: Red Lion Press. ISBN 0-9744141-0-7.
  • Clarke, R. M. (1995). DeLorean: 1977–1995 Gold Portfolio. Cobham: Brooklands. ISBN 1-85520-331-6.
  • Espey, James (2014). The Illustrated Buyer's Guide to DeLorean Automobiles (2nd ed.). the DeLorean Garage. ISBN 978-0-9856578-1-9.
  • DeLorean Celebrating the Impossible (2015) Chris Parnham & And Withers. DeLorean Motor Cars (1978) Ltd. ISBN 978-0-9928594-0-4.
  • DeLorean DMC-12 [sic], The Essential Buyers Guide (2018) Published by Veloce publishing. Author: Chris Williams ISBN 978-1-787112-32-2

External linksEdit